OSHKOSH, Wis. (NBC 26) — Chants of "not done yet" echoed through the locker room Saturday night as the UW Oshkosh women's basketball team celebrated yet another trip to the Division III Sweet 16.
"We're made for March," senior forward Nikki Arneson said. "That's what we like to say."
The Titans are readying for their third straight Sweet 16 appearance and fourth in the past five Division III tournaments.
The program has come a long way since head coach Brad Fischer, now in his 10th season, took over in 2012.
"We've obviously worked hard on our end but our players have bought in," Fischer said of his time at UWO.
Twenty wins is the benchmark for a good college basketball season. Fischer's teams have hit that mark in nine of his ten seasons. The one they didn't? Last year, when the season was shortened due to COVID-19.
Fischer credits a strong, player-led culture.
"I think when you get it from the groups that you kind of learn that's what we do here," he said. "There's a pride and they all kind of have that shared experience of going through four years, five years here... just kind of having that pride of being a Titan."
Fifth year seniors Nikki Arneson and Leah Porath, both first-team All-WIAC selections, are perfect examples.
"Being here for so long every person that comes in we let them know this is the big leagues," Porath said. "It's Division III but it doesn't matter what division we are."
"Us upperclassmen try to keep that culture tight," Arneson said. "So it's been great. Best five years of my life."
That's a big reason why both players opted to use their "COVID year," an extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA to athletes who had their careers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and come back for a fifth season.
"Honestly, it wasn't even a question," Arneson said. "When me and Leah had the opportunity... we were like, 'We are coming back. We can win a national championship if we come back.'"
They are on that track, but first, they have to get over the hump and make it to the program's first Elite Eight since 1999.
"You get to the Sweet 16 and everyone's just really good," Fischer said. "But I think we're confident and we're focused and we've had enough experience now that I think we're going to handle this as well as we have."
Oshkosh is set to take on Baldwin Wallace (Ohio) in the regional semifinal round Friday night. That game will tip off at 5:00 p.m. at UW-Whitewater. There's a chance the Titans could play conference rival Whitewater in the Elite Eight - if both teams win Friday.